August 13, 2007 – Educating states on the awesome responsibility dealers have

This October in Portland, Maine, there will be the bi-annual conference of state motor vehicle departments. Officials from all 50 states will gather to share common concerns and solutions and to learn of the latest technology available to keep track of motor vehicles and dealers in their respective states.
As in the past, they have asked for an update from the motorcycle industry. Tim Buche, president of the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), and myself, speaking from the dealer prospective as executive director of the National Council of Motorcycle Dealer Associations (NCMDA), will make presentations.
These state officials are in a position to have a real impact on our business. Many of the current laws that govern your business are administered by them and every state legislature relies on DMV input prior to the enactment of new legislation. I will leave any statistical presentation to Buche, and I am sure he also will do a good job of showcasing the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, which was nurtured by the MIC and now operates independently, and other good works of the MIC. I will comment on the commitment required of retail dealers and the help needed regulating the distribution of motorcycles and ATVs.
One point I hope to convey is that we are not the automobile business, and in addition to the everyday challenges of running any retail enterprise, motorcycle dealers take on an awesome responsibility. We acknowledge and accept the inherent risk that comes with the use of our products.
Motorcycle dealers are very close to the end users. We ride and play with them, and see our customers much more often than an automobile dealer. Most dealers are strong enthusiasts drawn to the business by the love of motorcycles. Matching the right bike to the consumer, providing instruction and lessons, directly or via professional instructors, and providing the correct safety equipment is indeed an awesome responsibility that dealers live up to every day.
U.S. dealers represent highly committed manufacturers that adhere to high-quality control standards and are well experienced in packaging and shipping the products we sell. All our OEMs require a predelivery inspection and service prior to delivery to the consumer. Ongoing training to the dealer by the OEM is provided and required. Despite the quality control, repair and major adjustment is frequently required for the equipment to be safely operated.
Our major concern, for which we would like help from the state DMV offices, is the regulation of all motorcycles and ATVs sold in the United States. Today there are a number of new manufacturers entering the marketplace who are circumventing the established distribution process. We see off-road motorcycles and ATVs being imported as “motorized toys” and being sold as off-the-shelf products by big box retailers. There also have been dealers appointed who lacked even the most rudimentary service facilities.
Anyone who has ever attempted to purchase a computer or other complex item from a major chain retailer knows the level of expertise and assistance they encounter. It is simply not in the interest of the consumer for motorcycles and ATVs to be sold in that manner.
Anything you ride on that moves at a significant speed is not a toy and should not be sold as one. When the product fails or is used inappropriately, injury and death can and do result. The industry welcomes new manufacturers and dealers willing to accept the need to responsibly sell the products.
We recognize the department of motor vehicles have a pretty full plate but hope they will see the need to regulate the way motorcycles and ATVs are sold in their states. All should be registered and license fees and sales tax collected by a state-approved motorcycle dealer in their state.
I will conclude by stating that motorcycle dealers might not be up to the standards of their automobile dealer counterparts when it comes to financial reporting or business planning, but they are truly more passionate about what they do. We hope the state departments of motor vehicles recognize the commitment dealers make, and that we can look for them to share the awesome responsibility we all owe to consumers.
I hope to have Maine dealers in attendance for these state officials to meet and talk to. I am very pleased we have come together as an industry to make our point at this very important gathering.
Conspicuous by their absence from the MIC membership list will be Harley-Davidson Motor Co. I have often urged dealers to put aside past real or imagined differences and be an active member of their state association. Such action is long overdue by Big Orange, which really needs to get back in the MIC, which they helped form.
After consulting with Buche while preparing this column, I learned that Harley-Davidson is a member of and a prime financial supporter of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. They are doing right when it comes to supporting the sport, it would just look so much better with their name on the MIC masthead. Every state dealer association has the same issue — if your name is not on the roster of current members, your commitment to the industry is not being noted. Cheers, Ed. PSB
Ed Lemco has been involved with the powersports industry for more than 30 years. Lemco, the former owner of Lemco Management Group, is the founder and executive director of the National Council of Motorcycle Dealer Associations. Lemco currently operates a call center for dealers in St Croix.

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